By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – In a city of 832 streets, it’s hard to single one out for being special.
But a recurring movement among some business owners – and now public officials – has put South Gloster Street in the spotlight once again.
The three-mile commercial strip boasts some of the city’s best success stories, as well as reminders of what used to be.
Within a short drive, one can visit the nation’s largest rural hospital and its bustling medical community before stumbling upon vacant buildings and a former shopping mall still struggling to attract new clients.
One of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, South Gloster carries 17,000 vehicles a day but cracks with age and wear. The street is booming and busy, cluttered and clumsy, growing and dying all at once.
“South Gloster is a vital part of Tupelo,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. “It’s a no-brainer we need to focus on that.”
More than 210 businesses call South Gloster Street home. Together, they’re worth some $7.9 million in assessed property value. And combined, they generate nearly $775,000 in annual property taxes for the city.
That doesn’t include the sprawling North Mississippi Medical Center complex, which as a nonprofit doesn’t pay property taxes.
In all, 6 percent of Tupelo’s total business community operates from South Gloster Street. And one of the city’s largest neighborhood associations – Lee Acres – claims a swath of the street within its boundaries.
Residents and business owners, who for years watched the once-vibrant street slowly die, now demand the city become active in its rebirth.
About 100 of them gathered last month at a meeting organized by Ward 3 City Councilman Jim Newell, who represents the area. They discussed needs and strategies and looked toward a brighter future.
But much progress already has been made: A vacant and unsightly former grocery store recently became the sparkling new home of BridgePoint cancer treatment center. And the Major Thoroughfare Committee tapped South Gloster for a roughly $4 million upgrade.
Slated to start later this year, that upgrade will include 2.3 miles of new drainage work, gutters, curbs and an extra lane for turning. It will start at South Green Street and extend north to Garfield Street near NMMC.
The project could go out for bid as early as May, said Major Thoroughfare Program engineer Jim Epps of Cook Coggin.
Also on the way is the much-anticipated arrival of state Highway 6, which will tie 6 into South Gloster and potentially bring thousands of extra vehicles a day.
But Reed said Tupelo can’t wait for state Highway 6 to start making improvements.
“The most important thing for South Gloster is that the street itself look attractive,” he said. “That alone will do more to welcome new businesses and give a face-lift to existing businesses. And that’s what we need.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.